FAWSL 2020/2021: Chelsea Women vs Bristol City Women- tactical analysis
The second round of the 2020/2021 FAWSL season included a match between Chelsea Women and Bristol City Women at Kingsmeadow that ended with a humiliating win for Chelsea Women over Bristol City Women with 9-0 following a one-sided game that showcased the impressive abilities of Chelsea’s players and showed us how the gap between both teams is a huge one since Bristol City were not able to cause any tangible threat throughout the match.
The game was full of goals and the good thing for Chelsea is that the nine goals were scored by nine different Chelsea players, which shows the tactical fluidity of this team and the impressive attacking abilities of its players. Nevertheless, the team should not get carried away by this huge win since the season is still long and there are many teams competing with them such as Manchester City Women and Arsenal Women, who have just won 1-9 as well.
However, Bristol City suffered a lot in this match and did not find solutions neither in attack nor in defence and since half time, it seemed even impossible to get a point out of this match. Yet, games like these should not affect players’ mentality and the coaching staff need to work on making their players maintain their motivation and accept the fact of losing since everything is yet to be played for them and winning and doing well in the next matches can even change the whole situation of the team especially if they succeed in winning against their closest rivals.
In this tactical analysis article, I will provide an in-depth analysis of the match while focusing on both teams tactical plans, flaws and things that went well for them in terms of tactics. Also, influential players’ contributions will be highlighted and studied to see how they were able to make the difference for their respective clubs.
The locals changed their lineup in comparison to their previous match and were lined-up according to a 4-4-2 formation that included Ann-Katrin Berger as a goalkeeper, a defensive line composed of Maren Mjelde on the right, Millie Bright and Magdalena Eriksson as centre-backs and Hannah Blundell who normally plays as a right-back, played as a left-back this time.
Chelsea Women’s midfield was composed of two central midfielders, Ji So-Yun and Melanie Leupolz in addition to Fran Kirby on the right wing and Erin Cuthbert on the left wing. The team’s attack includes the two strikers Sam Kerr and Bethany England while both Kirby and Cuthbert help in linking the midfield to the attack by going to the centre and acting like an advanced playmaker to feed both forwards with through balls or penetrate by themselves into the box.
Concerning the visitors Bristol City Women, Tanya Oxtoby, the team’s coach, preferred to start with a 4-4-2 formation as well and have two defensive lines ahead of Sophie Baggaley, the goalkeeper.
These defensive lines were composed of Florence Allen on the right, Jasmine Matthews and Gemma Evans as centre-backs, and Jemma Purfield as a left-back. The second defensive line is in midfield and it is made up of two central midfielders, Ella Mastrantonio and Aimee Palmer, and on the same line plays Carla Humphrey on the right wing, and Yana Daniëls on the left wing. Ahead of them, Chloe Logarzo and Charlie Wellings played as the team’s forwards.
Chelsea’s attacking prowess
During this match, Chelsea Women started keeping possession and playing especially on the wings, relying on Kirby’s accelerations and Cuthbert’s cutting inside to create opportunities and reach the box where England and Kerr usually were waiting to receive the ball.
In this regard, there was a good chemistry between those two especially in the first half since both exchanged passes and made combinations in the final third but none of them aimed at shooting with determination especially in the first half and this figure confirms it: each one of the two shooted four times in the match and just two shots were on target.
This has two perspectives to look at from, the first is to acknowledge that the team was balanced in attack and all players contributed by shooting and creating opportunities and not only strikers were given the responsibility of shooting, and that’s why we saw Leupolz shooting five times despite being a midfielder.
However, when looking from a second perspective, we can argue that the team cannot always rely on wingers and midfielders to score goals when they have two powerful strikers in their squad. During difficult matches against stronger teams, strikers’ goal-scoring contributions can be crucial to winning matches especially when midfielders and wingers are being strictly marked.
And this is why Chelsea need to work more on strengthening Kerr and England’s goal scoring abilities and shooting accuracy as well and rely on them more often in finishing the action to have plenty of scoring options. For instance, in the following example England was in a good position to shoot and had no defending resistance but shot the ball completely away from target.
What was really striking during this Chelsea performance is the two wingers’ attacking contribution. Both Cuthbert and Kirby were the source of danger to Bristol City Women’s defence since both were very agile, made many combinations with the forwards and with the joining midfielders as well, and more importantly, both wingers did not always play at their initial positions.
In other words, both players alternated in switching their roles since one of the two turned into a trequartista almost at each attack and created numerical superiority inside or near the box. You can see in this example how Kirby cut inside and was intending to play a smart one-two passing combination with Ji which will allow her to be on the edge of the box and in a dangerous position that will make her able to either shoot or pass to an unmarked teammate. And she preferred the second choice but Kerr missed the chance.
The same happens here with Cuthbert who drops from left-wing to play in midfield and gives more passing options to her teammates and advances with the ball once she receives it. Therefore, we can say that the team plays with an anonymous extra player in midfield whenever the team has the ball, and this helps in distracting the opponents and freeing marked players.
Despite being up by five goals in the beginning of the second half, Chelsea continued their high pressing which was performed throughout the first half and this was fundamental for the team not only in preventing Bristol City from creating from the back but also in helping the team keep possession more often and lead the opposition to making mistakes. It also proves their hunger for goals and for keeping the positive result without allowing space for the opposition to get back into the game and threaten them.
Concerning goals, it is almost impossible to analyse each goal of the nine scored in one article, however, in order to explain what happened some statistics are worth mentioning. In this match Chelsea had 78% ball possession, 87% in pass accuracy, and 37 shots compared to only one shot for Bristol City.
This domination in statistics was more apparent in the nine scored goals which showed how Chelsea can score from different situations; headers, key passes from midfielders and then accurate finishing, penalties and individual efforts like Harder’s dribbling and shooting from distance as soon as she was subbed on.
Apart from her world-class backheel goal, Harder proved that she deserves a starting spot in this Chelsea lineup not only by scoring goals but also by getting on well with the strikers and providing key passes to them, such as this intelligent assist made to Kerr between defenders.
Bristol City: how do they improve?
It is no secret to anyone that Bristol City Women did not perform in an excellent way but this is partly understandable given the gap between players’ abilities and technical skills. At the start of the match, Bristol City did not lack motivation and tried to build from the back and attack but Chelsea Women’s high pressing disturbed and affected their plans.
Nevertheless, the team had some opportunities especially before conceding many goals but did not succeed at making accurate final passes that could have resulted in goals since Chelsea’s defence was not that perfect and players made mistakes at the back.
For example, in this opportunity four Chelsea players were chasing down and surrounding one player and left Bristol City’s right-back, Allen, free from marking. However, when she received the ball from Logarzo she did not cross it accurately despite having many players in the box waiting for a ball.
In order to do well in attack in the next fixtures, chances like these should be better exploited and the focus should be on enhancing crossing accuracy, key pass accuracy and especially shooting accuracy and working on finishing abilities as well.
Working on these aspects and on counter-attacking combinations as well can make this team disturb teams like Chelsea, Manchester City and Arsenal and punish them through well-played and fast counter-attacks.
For instance, in this sole opportunity in which Bristol City had a counter-attacking chance, the subbed Ebony Salmon was not able to hit the target and her shot went faraway. And this is exactly what needs to be improved for Bristol City.
Concerning the defensive aspect, the team defended with determination throughout the match and made 59 interceptions in total even though at some point they knew that the game was lost but did not act indifferent. And this is mentally not as simple as it seems.
Bristol City defended with two lines of four as you can see in the following picture and were able to disturb Chelsea initially but couldn’t stop them since Chelsea were very patient in the build-up and found ways to break down the two lines of defence mainly through their wingers’ changes of positions and midfielders recurrent and accurate passing combinations.
Ahead of the two lines, the two strikers were pressing on Chelsea’s defence but no concrete result was noted. And against strong teams like Chelsea, it would have been more useful to play with five midfielders instead of four and one striker in order to make the midfield more difficult to pass through and why not win more balls in midfield which would make the team play more comfortably and have more chances.
It is true that the coaching team did this but that was only in the last five minutes of the game, however, if the formation was 4-5-1 since the beginning maybe things would have been better for Bristol City.
Although Bristol City Women did their best to compete with Chelsea Women and prevent them from scoring, it is not possible to ignore the great attacking performance of Chelsea players. And in this regard, Kirby stands out as one of the best players of this match since she played a pivotal role in creating most chances for the team especially in the first half. Also, Cuthbert, Leupolz and Harder were excellent since the three of them not only scored goals but also were making a continuous source of danger for Bristol’s defence.
Cuthbert with her dribbling and key passes, Leupolz kept the midfield balance along with Ji, scored a goal and had five shots and 90% pass accuracy, while Harder was able to create the difference for the second time even though her team was already winning by scoring a beautiful goal and providing an assist to Kerr.
For Bristol, Baggaley stands out since she was the one who made 11 saves in this game even though she conceded nine goals. Also, Matthews did well in defence since she won in 71% of the total duels but overall, the team was not as good as required in attack and in midfield.
The match was certainly one to forget for the Bristol City Women team and supporters. However, the team should not lose motivation and determination since the season is still long and opportunities for winning as well as good results will come. The most important thing is to identify the mistakes and attempt to fix them as soon as possible to perform better in the next fixtures.
While for Chelsea Women, the team is now on the right path and new players are integrating the team in an impressive way. Yet, this excellent attacking performance should not hamper the team’s development since a lot needs to be done especially concerning the strikers’ attacking performances.